Rise in paedophiles using Instagram

1 March 2019, 12:36 | Updated: 1 March 2019, 13:01

Apps on a phone

New figures have revealed a 200 per cent rise in predators targeting and abusing children through Instagram.

The NSPCC have revealed more than 5,000 online grooming offences have been recorded by police in England and Wales in just 18 months.

In the North East, youngsters were targeted on Instagram almost 40 times between April 2017 and April last year.

Of 95 offences in the Cleveland force area, 14 were linked to the site.

Steve Bell, from Cleveland Police's paedophile online investigation team, said: “Every child has one, maybe two, devices from a very early age.

“Our children are connecting to online platforms and online social media from a very early age.

“Everyone at school has got them.

“If you are giving them an iPhone or and iPad they can download Instagram, they can create a YouTube account.

“Right from the start, understand what the platforms are, understand what they can do on the platforms and prepare our children for what they might face online." 

Northumbria Police and Durham Constabulary also released figures. Of Durham's 88 grooming offences, 14 had started on Instagram. Nine reports in Northumbria's force area were linked to the site. 

The data, obtained from 39 of the 43 forces in England and Wales, under Freedom of Information laws, also shows that in the latest six month period, girls aged 12 to 15 were most likely to be targeted by groomers and victims included children as young as five-years-old.

Ahead of the imminent publication of the Government's Online Harms White Paper, the NSPCC is urging ministers to tame the Wild West Web by bringing in statutory regulation to enforce a legal duty of care to children on social networks, backed by hefty fines if they fail.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: "These figures are overwhelming evidence that keeping children safe cannot be left to social networks.

"We cannot wait for the next tragedy before tech companies are made to act. It is hugely concerning to see the sharp spike in grooming offences on Instagram, and it is vital that the platform designs basic protection more carefully into the service it offers young people.

"After 10 years of failed self-regulation by social networks, it is crucial that the Government's imminent Online Harms White Paper includes new laws that tackle online grooming once and for all.”